Panic! At The Disco’s debut album could not have been any weirder. In the midst of the 2000’s pop punk craze and music being in sort of a strange transitionary period, this new band bursts on the scene with a mixture of it all. Pop punk, baroque pop, emo, electronic and alternative rock, just to name a few, are some of the genres this record has been classified in. To say it’s dense is an understatement; there’s so much to unpack with this one and it’s rather not surprising that it was criticized specifically for that reason. Yet, it became of the most recognized and acclaimed records of it’s time, along with being certified double platinum as of 2015. Besides the major success of “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”, the record as a whole is extremely remarkable simply because of the effort that went into making it. From the intricate lyrics and attention to detail in the musical portion, to the way it’s structured to make it feel like a theatre show with two distinct halves was something so uncommon. Listening to each song individually is a treat in itself, but actually taking the time to hear the record as a whole is something even more special. The way it all flows together is incredibly immaculate and I can’t imagine something like this being recreated ever again. So, it is with much excitement that I present to you, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, track by track.
“Introduction” starts us off, which many will complain for not being an actual song, but a mere prelude to what is coming up. It’s a funny mix of a few of the tracks and features feedback and distorted radio noises. Through it all, although it’s very faint, can be heard “Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly present a picturesque score of passing fantasy”. It feels like a time warp and establishes a nostalgic, almost uncomfortable, but exciting feel for what lies next.
“The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage” flows in from “Introduction” without hesitation, being built upon high energy pop punk instrumental and an interesting electronic infused bridge piece. It creates almost a pact with the listener with the band saying “Swear to shake it up if you swear to listen”. It becomes more frantic towards the end by reiterating the statement with “swear to shake it up, you swore to listen!”. It details the bands start in the music industry and ends with a perfect sing along ending, creating a mesmerizing outro that definitely has kept us all listening for years and years.
“London Beckoned Songs About Money Written By Machines” plays off of the feel and ideas of the previous track, also being centered around critical opinions and starting out their career as a band. This one especially has so many stellar lyrical moments that I don’t even have enough space here to list them all. It’s also a very interesting musical piece in the sense that it’s made up of classic pop punk inspired instrumental that slows down and picks up in all the right places. The way the songs rebounds back from a toned down bridge portion just to use the same bridge to end the song without it sounding overdone or messy is a feat and a job well done. The somber feeling ends also serves as a perfect segway into the next song.
“Nails for Breakfast, Tacks for Snacks” is slightly more toned down in tempo which gives us a nice break from the almost frantic feeling songs before it, however it proves to be just as exciting. The intro is so wonky sounding and I can’t even place which instrument was used to make it, along with the slightly auto-tuned vocals that create an interesting touch without derailing the whole track. This is one of the most easily recognizable songs out of them all, and leads us away from the bands personal feels of the industry and into the struggles associated with alcoholism.
“Camisado” takes us through another bout of lyrics aimed at describing alcoholism, with some of the most intense and somber lines on the entire project. “Just sit back and relax, just sit back and relapse” and “Can’t take the kid from the fight, take the fight from the kid” serve as just a few examples but this one is full of them. Despite the less than enthusiastic words, this track is actually very upbeat and compromised of the best backing guitar and electronic backing the record has to offer. With a sing along moments woven throughout, this is quite possibly the most unforgettable song of them all.
“Time to Dance” is based off novel “Invisible Monsters” by Chuck Palahniuk, yet can have multiple meanings assigned to it (I’ll let you decide what you want the lyrics to mean). This is one of the liveliest songs (and one of the best to see live, in my personal opinion). It’s so dynamic and veers on the edge of crazy but stays completely even throughout all the tempo and instrumental changes, always slowing down and picking up in the right spots. Although it may be one of the impenetrable tracks, it’s also one of the most engaging.
“Lying Is The Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off” is another one that picks up where the last one left off. It’s again dynamic in the sense that the instrumental is different throughout every part of the song, and one of my favorite parts is how it almost sounds like garage rock inspired after the first chorus. There are small synth noises that sparkle in the background and it fluctuates between calm verses and delightfully upbeat choruses that never become overbearing or chaotic. Mix in some arrogant lyrics and it’s an emo song to remember.
“Intermission” is brought to us a little over half way through the record, and it stylistically connects the two halves of songs. The first part the intermission is a weird electronic bit which after a short while moves into a piano piece. There are only a few lines which say “Ladies and gentlemen, due to circumstances beyond out control, we are unable to continue our broadcast of dance music”, marking the end of the electronic rock portion and leading us into the baroque pop section of the album.
“But It’s Better If You Do” is a song that even after so many years makes me want to dance like a monkey every time I listen to it. The piano tune on this one is so animated and the heavy drumming during the bridge brings about a circus like feel. It’s absolutely less punk feeling than the previous half but still contains just as much charisma. In terms of lyrics, it’s about being at a strip club despite not actually wanting to spend time there, with the narrator saying multiple times “well I may have faked it, and I wouldn’t be caught dead in this place”. This sets us up for similar lyrical themes to come that cover other situations of hypocrisy and infidelity.
“I Write Sings Not Tragedies” is a song that’s become one of the most recognizable songs ever, mostly because of the intro guitar riff and the line about the grooms bride being a whore. It’s pop punk perfection in terms of instrumental and is attention catching and cynical. It’s no wonder it became such a big hit, and really is the most single worthy song on here.
“I Constantly Thank God For Esteban” is unforgettable, demanding us to “strike up the band” among other things and isn’t about what you may think at first. The best part about this song in particular is the classical guitar intro that’s heard throughout the majority of the track until the electric guitars drop in during the bridge. The instrumental is simple enough to really showcase lyrics about hypocrisy that are covered up with religious images. It’s easy to think that this is a story condemning religion, however, it actually demonstrates through the metaphor of religion how fake certain people can be. It’s interesting to look at it from both ways, and is a perfect example of how multidimensional this record is.
“There’s a Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven’t Thought Of It Yet” is a reflection of previous track where it touches on the topic of hypocrites again, only this time we’re at a party, not a church. This one is written from a storytelling aspect, where we’re introduced to this party at the front door and told to leave our coats, then we move to the restroom and to the dining tables. This isn’t an ordinary party however, because our narrator is spiking the punch and lacing the cigarettes with nitroglycerin. Basically, the narrator, who is also our host, is ruining this party for all these people he considers to be portraying themselves in a different manner than who they really are. The biggest standout moment on this track in particular is the horn section, which is isn’t found as heavily (if at all) on any other track.
“Build God, Then We’ll Talk” is simply stunning and flawlessly produced. Ironically enough, it’s also about prostitution. This is another storytelling written track with a lyrical component that’s so dense, I again don’t have space or time to discuss it all here. But nonetheless, it’s musically one of Panic!’s best songs on this record and in their entire discography, mainly because of the sampled use of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. Granted, “My Favorite Things” is one of the most sampled songs possibly ever, but this time, the band put their own twist on it and made it work. It’s used in an ironic sense because all these “favorite” things that are being described are not great things at all. It’s musically a contrast to the other songs, relying more on strings like the gorgeous violin solo during the bridge or cello heard right at the very end. It’s easily my favorite song out of them all, and easily brings the entire project full circle, really demonstrating the idea that maybe life in itself truly is A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out.